Article Highlights:

  • Definition of Birthday
  • Exemption Allowances
  • Child-based Credits
  • Earned Income Credit
  • Retirement Plan Distributions
  • Social Security Taxation
  • Tax Benefits for Seniors

For your birthday this year, you may have received a special gift from a loved one or favorite friend. Depending on the number of candles on this year’s birthday cake, you may also be getting a gift from Uncle Sam when you file your tax return next tax season. In some situations the gift may not be because you reached a certain age, but will be the result of the age your dependent(s) or spouse turned this year. Unfortunately, not all of Uncle Sam’s gifts will be welcomed, because some birthdays mark the end of eligibility for certain credits or exclusions of income and others signal the start of needing to include retirement benefits in income.

Under common law, a person attains a given age on the day before his or her birthday, which can impact the taxpayer’s return for certain age-related tax issues. For example, a taxpayer whose 65th birthday is on January 1 is considered to be age 65 as of December 31 of the prior year, and eligible for an additional standard deduction amount for the prior year. However per an IRS ruling on several tax provisions—which are discussed in this article—involving children, the child attains a given age on the actual date the child was born, instead of the day before.

If you or someone in your tax family attains one of the following ages this year, here’s how your tax return may be impacted:

Age 0 – Well, OK, zero isn’t really an age; but, if your dependent is born in 2015, you can claim a $4,000 exemption allowance for the child. Exemptions are subtracted from your gross income to determine your taxable income, and your taxable income determines your marginal tax bracket. So, for example, if you are in the 25% tax bracket, each exemption allowance reduces your tax by $1,000.

Age 13 – If you qualify to claim a credit for child care expenses that you pay so that you (or if married filing a joint return, you and your spouse) can work or look for work, and the qualifying child who is your dependent turns 13 years old in 2015, only the expenses for care up to the date of the child’s 13th birthday will be eligible for the credit. Similarly, if you receive dependent care benefits from your employer, the value of those benefits is excludable from your income only for care before the child turns 13. An exception to the age limit applies if the dependent child is not physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself.

Age 17 – One of the requirements for the child tax credit is that the qualifying child be younger than 17 at the end of the tax year. Thus, if your child turns 17 during 2015, you will not be allowed to claim the child tax credit for this child for 2015 or any future year. The amount of the credit is $1,000 per eligible child, subject to a phase-out based on your adjusted gross income (AGI).

Age 18 – To claim an adoption credit for expenses you paid to adopt a child, the child must have been younger than 18 at the time you paid or incurred the expenses. A child turning 18 during the year is an eligible child for the part of the year he or she was younger than 18. The age limitation does not apply if the person you adopted is physically or mentally unable to take care of himself or herself.

Age 19 – To be a qualifying child for dependency purposes, the child must be younger than 19 as of the end of the year (or younger than 24 if a full-time student). So, if your child’s 19th birthday was in 2015 and he or she is not a full-time student for some part of at least 5 months during the year, you can’t claim the child as a dependent under the definition of a qualifying child. (Once again, the age limitation does not apply for a child who is unable to physically or mentally provide self-care.) Depending upon both the child’s income and who provided the majority of the child’s support, you may be able to use a different definition to claim the dependency.

Age 24 – If you’ve been claiming your older-than-18 child as a dependent based on the child being a full-time student who doesn’t provide more than half of his or her own support, you won’t be able to claim the child’s dependency under that rule starting in the year the child has his or her 24th birthday. Depending on the child’s gross income and other factors, you may still be entitled to the dependency exemption, but under the “other” dependent rules and not the “qualifying child” rules.

Age 25 – If you are a lower-income taxpayer who is at least 25 years old before the end of the year, and you do not have a qualifying child, you may be eligible for the earned income credit. If you are married, and file a joint return, either you or your spouse must meet the age requirement. This age requirement for the earned income credit does not apply if you have a qualifying child.

Age 27 – There are various provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that apply to a child younger than 27 (i.e., one who has not had his or her 27th birthday) as of the end of the year. For example, your younger-than-27 child may be included on your health insurance plan, even if the child is not your dependent. If you are self-employed, the premiums you paid for the health insurance coverage of a child younger than 27 can be included as part of the above-the-line deduction of health insurance costs you may be able to deduct.

Age 50 – If you are a qualified public safety employee, such as a police officer or fireman who separates from service after age 50 and takes a distribution from your government employer’s defined benefit pension plan, the 10% early withdrawal penalty will not apply.

Age 55 – If you take a distribution from your employer’s qualified retirement plan after separation from service in or after the year you reach age 55, the distribution is not subject to the 10% penalty that usually applies when distributions are taken before age 59 1/2. To qualify for this exception to the penalty, you must be age 55 or older, and then separate from employment. This provision does not apply to IRAs.

Age 59 1/2 – Once you’ve reached age 59 1/2, distributions from your qualified retirement plans and traditional IRAs are no longer considered to be early distributions and, therefore, are not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, in most cases, all of the distribution amount is includible in your income and will be taxed.

Age 62 – Many individuals opt to start receiving their Social Security benefits – albeit at a reduced amount than if they had waited until they reached full retirement age – when they first become eligible to receive the payments, generally at age 62. If this is your first year for collecting SS benefits (whether at age 62 or another age), you may be surprised to learn that part of the benefits may be taxable. Depending on your other income and filing status, 50% to 85% of the benefits may be taxable.

Age 65 – As mentioned above, starting with the year you reach age 65, you are eligible for an additional standard deduction amount. For 2015, the extra amount is $1,550 for a taxpayer filing as single or head of household or $1,250 for those filing married joint, married separate or a qualifying widow(er). There is no extra deduction if you itemize your deductions. If you file a joint return, you and your spouse, if he or she is also age 65 or older, are each allowed the additional amount.

Through 2016, if you itemize deductions and either you or your spouse – if filing a joint return – is age 65 by the end of the year, you need to reduce your medical expenses by only 7.5% of AGI instead of the 10% reduction rate that applies to other taxpayers. If you are subject to the alternative minimum tax, only medical expenses exceeding 10% of your regular AGI are deductible for the AMT computation.

If you’ve been claiming the earned income credit without having a dependent child, you will no longer be eligible for the credit starting in the year you turn 65.

Contributions to a health savings account (HSA) are not permitted once you are entitled to benefits under Medicare, meaning you are eligible for and have enrolled in Medicare. Most individuals become Medicare eligible and enroll at age 65. Contributions to the HSA may continue until the month you are actually enrolled in Medicare.

Age 70 1/2 – If you turned 70 1/2 in 2015, distributions from your traditional IRA must begin by April 1, 2016; otherwise, a minimum distribution penalty can apply. You must continue to take distributions annually. Not only must you take distributions after turning 70 1/2, the law specifies how the minimum distribution is to be calculated. You may take a larger distribution, but the amount in excess of the required minimum distribution amount cannot be used to reduce future required distributions. You are considered age 70 1/2 on the date that is 6 calendar months after the 70th anniversary of your birth.

In general, if you are or were an employee whose employer has a qualified plandistributions from the qualified plan must begin no later than April 1 of the year following the year in which you attain age 70 1/2 or (except if you are a 5 percent owner), if later, you retire. This “retirement, if later” exception does not apply to IRAs.

If you were required to take your first distribution in 2015 but delay the withdrawal until April 1 of 2016, you will then have two distributions to include in your 2016 income, since the regular 2016 distribution must be taken by December 31 of that year. You cannot make a contribution to a traditional IRA for the year in which you reach age 70 1/2 or for any later year. Contributions to Roth IRAs, however, are allowed regardless of age provided you have wages, self-employment income or alimony income.

If you or a member of your tax family celebrated a milestone birthday (or half-birthday) this year and you have questions as to how the tax implications of that event will affect your return, please give this office a call.

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